Local vets frustrated
Many draw comparisons to attack on Pearl Harbor
September 11, 2001
Steamboat Springs — Spiro Callas was only a teen-ager when a muffled radio broadcast described the sketchy details of an unprovoked attack on the United States in the Pacific.
“My mom woke me up that Sunday morning and told me to turn on the radio,” Callas said. “What I heard was that we had been attacked, that we had no prior warning.”
Almost 60 years later, he watched on Tuesday as horrifying images on the television screen told the story of victims in New York City and Washington, D.C., who had been attacked without warning and without cause.
“The more things change, the more things stay the same,” he said.
For many area veterans, Tuesday’s terrorist strike seems eerily similar to the events of Pearl Harbor.
Callas, a longtime resident of Oak Creek, remembers returning to school to hear his teacher tell the class that “every one of us boys would be fighting by that time next year.”
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“Little did I know that he was right,” said Callas, who served in the Pacific from 1944 to 1946.
His friend, Louis Bruder, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but was also in high school at the time Pearl Harbor was bombed.
“It caught me by surprise back then,” Bruder said. “It caught me by surprise today.”
Bruder said he sees a resemblance between the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the attack on the U.S. naval base.
He said he expects the country to meet its latest challenge with the same determination it demonstrated in 1941.
Vietnam veteran Robert Hangman said he doesn’t buy the comparison between Tuesday’s aggression and the assault on Pearl Harbor, but he said the attack deserves the same immediate reaction.
“This was an unprovoked attack,” Hangman said. “We can’t hide behind negotiations. We can’t turn the other cheek. This deserves an answer.”
That answer must be both strong and guarded, said Rick VanDeCarr, a veteran of Desert Storm.
“We shouldn’t do anything in retaliation, but we must show the world that we’re not going to back down,” VanDeCarr said.
While Tuesday morning’s tragedy might mirror some of what happened in Hawaii, the eras were very different, Callas said.
“People have changed,” he said. “I hate to say the ‘good old days,’ but I think the reaction will be slightly different.”
Callas said he is hopeful that the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon reminds Americans, as Pearl Harbor did 60 years ago, that safety is not guaranteed and freedom is not to be taken for granted.